Court Upholds Life Sentence for Chhouk Rin

The Appeals Court upheld a decision on Wednesday to sentence a former Khmer Rouge commander to life in prison for the 1994 train attack in which 13 Cambodians were killed and three Western backpackers were kidnapped and executed.

The defendant, Chhouk Rin, 50, was not in attendance when presiding Judge Samreth Sophal read the verdict to a courtroom packed with journalists and am­bassadors.

Contacted later by telephone, Chhouk Rin said, “I knew beforehand that the court would make no changes, that’s why I declined to attend.”

Samreth Sophal said the court stood by its previous decision, reached in 2002, that Chhouk Rin was guilty.

“Seeing that Chhouk Rin was commander of the division, even if he did not take part in the fighting, he sent his troops to cooperate with Vith Vorn and left many people dead and injured,” Samreth Sophal said.

The judge dismissed the additional witnesses provided by Chhouk Rin in his latest appeal as “not believable.”

On Sept 6, 2002, the Appeals Court convicted Chhouk Rin of six charges related to a 1994 train ambush by Khmer Rouge rebels that left 13 Cambodians dead and led to the kidnapping and subsequent execution of an Australian, a Frenchman and a Briton. The deci­sion reversed a 2000 acquittal by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Chhouk Rin was convicted in absentia of murder, illegal detention, theft of property, destruction of public property, terrorism and operating an illegal armed group.

But Chhouk Rin’s defense team contested the conviction, saying it had insufficient time to prepare for the case, and it won a full retrial in the Appeals Court.

The court upheld the entire conviction Wednesday, despite a suggestion from General Prosecutor Kong Srim that the charge of operating an illegal armed group be dropped.

The decision concluded an appeal heard in court on Oct 27. After the court listened to testimony from 15 witnesses and the defendant admitted himself to a hospital midway through the proceedings, Samreth Sophal postponed reading the decision until Oct 5.

After hearing the verdict, Chhouk Rin’s lawyer, Puth Theavy, maintained his client’s innocence.

“He was not involved in the train raid. Even if he was involved, by the law he is not guilty,” Puth Theavy said, referring to a six-month grace period offered to Khmer Rouge members who defected to the government after a law was passed in 1994 outlawing the movement as common criminals.

“His defection to the government was made by law and now when the court punishes him like this it means the government is cheating [the Khmer Rouge]. Now nobody will trust the law or the government again,” he said.

French Ambassador Andre-Jean Libourel, who was present at the reading of the verdict, was pleased with the decision. “We are satisfied that these criminal charges have been confirmed. It is a sort of proof that justice has been done for all the victims,” he said.

Also in attendance was Australian Ambassador Annabel Mary Anderson. “We’ll wait to hear if another appeal is made and I’ll comment then, but I welcome today’s decision,” she said.

Chhouk Rin has 60 days to make a final appeal to the Supreme Court.

“I myself will go to the Supreme Court to complain on the 15th of December…. I’m not afraid of being arrested, I would not try to escape,” Chhouk Rin said by phone after the verdict was read.

The former Khmer Rouge commander added, “The court can arrest me but my people in Phnom Voar will turn out to the streets and hold a big demonstration.”


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